Hekate in Magna Graecia: Pachynus


Pachynus / Pakyhnos

According to the Greek poet Lycophron, who lived around the 3rd century BCE, a cult of Hekate was located in Pachynus (Pakhynos), Sicily. Today it is known as Capo Passero, and it is the southernmost tip of Sicily. It is located in the province of Syracuse (Siracusa), a major Greek colony in Magna Graecia and a thriving city today. Nearby, there is the small town of Pachino, which is home to an archaeological park containing temple remains to Apollo and others of unknown origin (this area will be researched further at a later time).

According to Lycophron, Odysseus erected a temple (or a shrine or monument of some sort) in honor of Hekate in Pachynus to appease the spirit of Hecuba:

“O mother, O unhappy mother! thy fame, too, shall not be unknown, but the maiden daughter of Perseus, Triform Brimo, shall make thee her attendant, terrifying with thy baying in the night all mortals who worship not with torches the images of the Zerynthian queen of Strymon, appeasing the goddess of Pherae with sacrifice. And the island spur of Pachynus shall hold thine awful cenotaph, piled by the hands of thy master, prompted by dreams when thou hast gotten the rites of death in front of the streams of Helorus. He shall pour on the shore offerings for thee, unhappy one, fearing the anger of the three-necked goddess, for that he shall hurl the first stone at thy stoning and begin the dark sacrifice to Hades.” (Lycophron’s Alexandra)

The above excerpt has some very interesting points. Hekate, according to Hesiod’s Theogony, is the daughter of Perses (and Asteria). Hekate is also known by the epithets “Hekate Triformis” (triple-formed) and “Hekate Brimo” (angry or terrible one). Hekate also had a known cult in Zerynthia, Samothrace (Greece). The mention of Helorus is most curious, though. Helorus is a river, but it is also a village next to or very close to Pachynus, spoken of by Claudius Ptolemy and alluded to by Pliny. There are archaeological remains of a theater found in Helorus, and there are also remains of a monument built with large stones and placed atop a square pedestal. The remains of this very curious monument may be found between the theater remains and the sea. There is a mystery surrounding this monument, as no one has been able to positively determine who built it or why.

I hope you enjoyed this essay on Hekate in  Magna Graecia: Pachynus.

© Melissa McNair / The Torch and Key


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